Here's an interesting post by Jeff Atwood about solid-state hard drives (thanks David!). SSDs have been around in various forms for a long time, but only in recent years have manufacturers started seriously marketing them to consumers as an alternative to traditional hard drives. In early 2008, both Apple and Dell started shipping high-end laptops with SSDs only; others have followed suit since then. As Kevin points out in Should You Upgrade to Windows 7?, Windows 7 improves performance for solid-state drives markedly over XP and Vista.

A drive with no moving parts should be faster, more energy efficient, and less susceptible to failure, right? In theory, yes, but the reality might be more complicated. From Atwood's article:

I was an early solid state (SSD) drive adopter with my last laptop purchase, and it was a profound disappointment. Those first and second generation SSD drives turned out to be slower than their magnetic equivalents, despite the eager promises of vendors. On top of that, they were incredibly expensive, and of limited capacity. Running Windows Vista on an early 32 gigabyte SSD was an exercise in pain and frustration on so many levels. What's not to love? A lot.

Reviews of Apple's early models were more positive, though it wasn't the radical improvement in performance that some were hoping for.

But things are improving. Atwood points to a glowing review Linus Torvald wrote about a year ago of Intel's model. At that time, prices were still prohibitive, but they're on the way down (and the drives are getting bigger). Atwood recommends the Crucial SSD as a more affordable model that still performs well.

Photo: Hong Chang Bum, CC license

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Elliot Harmon
Staff Writer, TechSoup